Miscege-Nation

Peggy Orenstein considers the rise of mixed race identity in America:

Of the seven million Americans who identified themselves as mixed-race in the 2000 census (the first in which it was possible to do so), nearly half were under the age of 18. Almost 5 percent of Californians now identify themselves as mixed-race; by comparison, fewer than 7 percent are African-American. Hawaii, Obama’s childhood home, is the most diverse state in the Union: 21 percent of residents identified as “Hapa,” a Hawaiian word meaning “half” that has gone from being a slur against mixed-race Asians to a point of pride and has increasingly been adopted by multiracials of all kinds on the Mainland.[...]

More than anything, though, Hapas remind us that, while racism is real, “race” is a shifting construct. Consider: Would Obama still be seen as “black enough” if the wife by his side were white?

And don’t get my husband started on why Tiger Woods whose mother is three-quarters Asian and whose father was one-quarter Chinese and half African-American is rarely hailed as the first Asian-American golf superstar.

Race is thrust on Hapas based on the shades of their skin, the shapes of their eyes, their last names. (Quick: What race is Apolo Ohno? How about Meg Tilly? Both are half-Asian.) But ethnicity, an internal sense of culture, place and heritage that’s more of a choice. Cultivating it in our children could be the difference between a Hapa Nation that’s a rich, variegated brown and one that fades to beige. I know that challenge firsthand. Because we are trying to raise our daughter as bicultural, much in our family is up for grabs, from the food we eat and what we say before and after eating it to the holidays we celebrate to whether we call her rear end a tushie or an oshiri.